Integrating Cyclist and Pedestrians in our cities
THE IDEA BEHIND WORLD BICYCLE DAY ON JUNE 03 IS TO RECOGNIZE THE SUSTAINABILITY AND UNIQUENESS OF THE BICYCLE AS A MODE OF TRANSPORTATION.
World over the 15-minute city is gaining significant traction. It is defined by its ability to provide access to all human needs by walking or bicycling for a quarter hour or less. The 30 km/h speed limits and zones in cities such as Graz, Austria, London, UK, New York, USA and Toronto, Canada have yielded significant results in facilitating walking and cycling and a move towards zero-carbon mobility. The same model is being replicated in cities of Brussels, Paris, Spain, Bogotá, Colombia, Accra, Ghana and Ho Chi Minh City.
It is time, we also reclaim our ’15 minute cities’ in India. Indian cities have a legacy of mixed land-use characteristics with the mix of commercial and residential uses where, streets belong more to the pedestrians and cyclists and less to the vehicular traffic.
Majority of Indian cities like Delhi, Pune, Kolkata and many others have developed circularly over the years with central mixed use development forming the core of these cities. Further, the citizens in these cities have a tendency to dedicate the ground floor for commercial and upper floors for residential uses. Thus, the ‘15-minute city’ concept has already been in Indian roots.
FINDING THE RIGHT WAY
Vast majority of Indian population travels primarily by foot or bicycle, yet our transport planning typically prioritizes private cars, which comes at the expense of sidewalks, safe walking and cycling infrastructure. Increasing the use of bicycles and making walking easier, is the most affordable and effective way for cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and creating people friendly city for all.
However, despite the legacy of walkability oriented planning of Indian cities, the ever-expanding urban areas need newer micro-mobility strategies. While, the Greenfield developments have better chances of integrating cycling and walking infrastructure, in case of existing developments, careful planning and management is required.
A coalition of 40 global cities, known as C40 cities aims for the implementation of a ’15-minute city’ as part of the Covid-19 economic recovery plan. C40 Cities includes five Indian cities Delhi, Jaipur, Kolkata. Bengaluru and Chennai that will initiate creating infrastructure in such a way that all city residents are able to meet most of their needs within a short walk or bicycle ride from their homes.
Starting from citizen’s awareness, including modules on cycling rules and culture should be included in driver’s license trainings. On ground, signages can be used around bike lanes to inform users, drivers and pedestrians about basic rules.
Feasibility studies and technical workshops before implementation of projects can avoid many a pitfalls during project execution. All relevant public bodies, NGOs and citizen’s groups can come together to derive on the best design, standards, regulations and incentives with respect to the local context. An audit by members from different sectors and people feedback can go a long way in making pedestrian friendly projects a success.
Most importantly, walking and cycling should be emphasized as the first- and last-mile mode of connectivity. Cycling infrastructure should be seen as part of the city’s overall transport planning. To achieve this, the mind-set towards cycling needs to change. Cycling should be considered a major transport mode alongside metro or bus systems and designed with this in mind. Infrastructure should be planned to create an integrated network.
“As we embark on building back better from the COVID-19 pandemic, the time has come to return urban streets to people – the pedestrians and cyclists. Low speed streets are the foundation on which to build safe, healthy, green and liveable cities,” ETIENNE KRUG, Director, Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, World Health Organization
PEDESTRIAN FRIENDLY CITY & ITS CHALLENGES
Planning & Implementation – Many a times, sidewalks, pavements and cycling tracks do not work. Either the planners are unaware of the ground realities and local context or if executed are, poorly constructed and badly maintained leaving them unusable or unsafe.
Coordination among Agencies – Building bike lanes, installing bike share systems and other cycling projects requires multi agencies and authority’s coordination. Lack of harmonisation among different organizations leads to conflict or poor results such as bike lanes disconnected from broader transportation network or bike sharing stalls lying unused due to lack of cycling infrastructure.
Integration of Cycling & Vehicular traffic – One of the biggest challenge lies in integrating the cycling infrastructure with other modes of transport. Bikes won’t be a meaningful mode of urban transport if they don’t feed into the larger transport system.
People Awareness – The problem of drivers, cyclists and even pedestrians not abiding by the traffic rules creates dangerous situations mainly for cyclists and pedestrians on Indian roads. Cars driving and parking in the cycling lane, cyclists using sidewalks and pavements and pedestrians walking on roads are a common sight.